Euro 2016: Selecting England's best starting XI beyond Slovakia match
It’s fair to say that this hasn’t been the most exhilarating of performances from an England team at a European Championship, but they are on course to qualify for the last 16 so they should feel fairly positive about the state of affairs right now.
Having drawn against Russia in their opener of UEFA Euro 2016, they followed that up with a spirited 2-1 win over British rivals Wales as they grabbed a late, late winner so their destiny is now well and truly in their own hands to finish top of their group.
However, despite the good position they currently find themselves in, there has been plenty of chat surrounding who should start for the Three Lions – as well as how they ought to play football.
Speculation and divisive opinions continue to populate the ongoing discussion, so let’s play the part of manager Roy Hodgson (who has bravely rung a few changes for the Slovakia match) and select the ideal starting line-up for the remainder of the competition, looking beyond their upcoming match in Saint-Etienne.
Remember to have your say in the comments section!
Fraser Forster: With Joe Hart’s error against Wales for Gareth Bale’s free kick dominating much of the talk surrounding England’s goalkeeping situation as well as his part in conceding against the Russians, it’s possible that Hodgson may swing the axe if another blunder takes place against Slovakia.
Let’s not forget that Forster is a record-breaking goalkeeper at Southampton and quite a smashing shot-stopper who deserves a chance to shine on the big stage. Some might think it harsh to drop Hart for a few errors, but it could have cost them dearly, and Forster would be more than a match for the long-range efforts of anyone to come.
Danny Rose: Some people like to think Rose is the best left back in Europe right now. Whether or not that’s accurate, it's clear he is Hodgson’s preferred option. Nevertheless, he is set to rest him for the Slovakia match, and Bertrand is coming in to take his place.
Possessing searing pace, unrelenting energy and an ability to rev past opponents in a flash, Rose would be the perfect weapon for a truly counter-attacking England side. Bertrand will be vital against the Slovaks, but Rose is definitely their most accomplished left back.
John Stones: Despite a rather rocky Premier League campaign, it was always likely that the Everton defender would earn a place in the final England 23-man squad – and so it has proven. Taking Chris Smalling’s place in this particular imagining, if you’re having a minor panic attack you can calm down a moment because Stones is arguably the better carrier of a ball out of defence (something they need), and before his struggles mid-season, was widely praised as one of the best emerging centre-backs in the country. Hodgson needs to have faith in him because he is a truly versatile and positive player, and he will grow as the tournament progresses if given the opportunities.
Gary Cahill: Included here not because he’s the vice-captain but due to his impressive performances in the competition to date, Cahill should remain part of the furniture at the back. What's more, he carries an offensive threat as well. Excellent in the air, he might only have scored three goals for his country, but he always provides a good target in the box – in fact, he should have scored in this tournament already. Need proof of his strengths? Drink in this tweet:
Gary Cahill has more England goals in fewer games than Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana combined— Barney Ronay (@barneyronay) June 16, 2016
Kyle Walker: Earning rave reviews from far and wide, Jermaine Jenas has even stated on Eurosport UK that Walker is ‘emerging as England's standout player in France.’ A genuine general for the team, he’s not only a technical star in possession but he carries the heart of it on his sleeve and plays with unbridled passion.
Nevertheless, he is being rested for the Slovakia match as Nathaniel Clyne takes his spot. If England can get Clyne on the ball down the right flank with enough regularity, he will cause Slovakia plenty of problems with his speed, muscle and intelligence, but the sooner Walker returns to the fold, the better.